Some are called ambassadors. Others, tour guides or airport aides. And yet some are simply referred to as airport volunteers. Here at my home town airport, BWI, these dedicated and passionate volunteers are referred to as Pathfinders. No matter the name, we’ve all seen them, been helped by them, or pleasantly greeted by them - the courteous, approachable volunteers strategically standing behind kiosks at the ready, roaming with tablets, and manning welcome desks around busy airport concourses.
Airport volunteerism has increased dramatically over the last ten years, and airports are relying more and more on these friendly-faced, eager volunteers to help improve their overall guest experiences. But not just anybody can apply to be an airport ambassador - the application process and vetting of volunteers is serious business. Security is paramount, therefore extensive background checks and lengthy screening processes are necessary to even be considered as a volunteer in an airport.
Beyond the paperwork and interviewing, it takes a dedicated lover of air travel, community, and problem solving to become an airport volunteer. And airports are recognizing the value of these ambassadors of their city and are becoming more and more dependent on the one-on-one passenger assistance they provide for travelers coming and going through their gates. Volunteers have the ability to provide a customer experience beyond passenger’s expectations. These ambassadors are often passengers first glimpse into the destination city. Because of their important role in the traveler’s journey, airports have developed extensive reward and recognition programs, helping to train, maintain and motivate volunteers to stay for an average of five years or more.
So the next time your rushing to find your gate, a restroom, or the nearest coffee shop, look not towards technology, weary traveler, but to a real, live, smiling person placed strategically around the airport whose only goal is to help you have a better passenger experience. Now that’s something to smile about - safe travels!
- Lise D'Andrea, President & CEO, Customer Service Experts, Inc.